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Ketchikan Cruise Port Tips

Ketchikan Alaska
Ketchikan is often the first stop of Alaska cruises. Credit: Pixabay Creative Commons license
Ketchikan is known as Alaska’s “first city” because it is the first city that cruise ships reach when they travel north from Seattle or Vancouver.

Cruise visitors dock at one of four berths. Ships might anchor on busy days and tender passengers to the docks.

It is the fifth most populated city in Alaska despite having a population of only about 8,000 people.

Ketchikan is much easier to reach by cruise than by car. A car drive will require more than 1,000 miles of driving and 27 hours of time.


One of the quickest attractions to visit is the historic Creek Street with Dolly’s House Museum and Tongass Historical Museum. They are about three fourths of a mile from some of the cruise berths.

Creek Street was infamous as a brothel district during the first half of the 20th century. Dolly’s House was one of the most famous brothels. It is now a museum.T Likewise, the nearby Tongass Historical Museum has even more history of the town.

Ketchikan has the world’s largest collection of totem poles. Two of the largest totem pole attractions are Potlatch Totem Park and Totem Bight State Historical Park. Both are right next to each other nine miles north of the city.

The Totem Heritage Center is about one and a half miles from the cruise terminal. This city-operated museum says it has “One of the world's largest collections of original, 19th century totem poles”. Admission is $6 for adults, $5 for senior citizens and free for children.

Kayakers and other outdoor enthusiasts go to Misty Fiords National Monument 22 miles east of Ketchikan. It covers 2.3 million acres over the Tongass National Monument. It is the largest wilderness in Alaska's national forests and the second largest in the nation.

Some excursion operators offer tours that include a totem park, eagle viewing and Guard Island Light. The lighthouse sits in a scenic location on a small island near the entrance of the Tongass Narrows.

Getting Around

The city has a free downtown shuttle bus from May through September. It has a daily 20-minute loop serving downtown, cruise ship berths and attractions including the Totem Heritage Center. Look for the bus that says "Downtown Shuttle".

Several taxi companies serve downtown. Car renters should note that parking is hard to find downtown. The town has several public parking lots in the downtown area. A daily parking permit is available for $5 at the City of Ketchikan Office Services Division, 334 Front Street

Weather / When to Go

July and August are the warmest months to visit Ketchikan for cruise visitors. The average high temperatures reaches about 64 degrees Fahrenheit, according to historical data from the U.S. Weather Service. The June average is 61 Fahrenheit.

Not surprisingly, the city has a lot of precipitation in the form of snow most of the year and rain during the summer.

The driest months are June and July with an average rainfall of more than six inches a month. Precipitation jumps to nearly 10 inches historically in August.

June through August are the prime Alaska cruise months. Anyone trying to decide when to go may want to choose July for the best combination of warm temperatures and lower risk of rain.

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July 09, 2018

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